Accidentally Erased External Hard Drive with Disk Utility – How to Recover Data [2021]

Updated to macOS Data Recovery Tips by Harper on Sep 22, 2021

Part 1. Can an erased disk be recovered?

"Can an erased hard drive be recovered? I accidentally erased external hard drive in Disk Utility. There are some important files, I want to learn how to recover erased external hard drive on Mac. Please help!"

Disk Utility is the default app on Mac to help users deal with hard drive related tasks, like fix errors on the disk, mount/unmount removable storage devices, format drives, etc. and it’s a tool to people are likely to use to erase an external disk. That’s why so many people accidentally erased mackintosh HD in disk utility as well as erased external hard drives on Mac.

Part 2. What Happens if you erase external hard drive in Disk Utility?

"Erase" mostly means that you do not care for the files saved on the disk, but want to make it a completely new disk. For sure, after erasing, all files will gone. And for some other devices, computers, or software, it means the files are permanently deleted, not recoverable. All the files are destroyed. However, it’s quite different on Mac. Disk erased by Disk Utility means the disk is formatted by Disk Utility. It’s possible to recover the files after erasing the hard drive in Disk Utility.

Part 3. How to recover erased data from external hard drive on Mac

If you regret erasing the hard disk or external hard drive on Mac with Disk Utility, you have two options to make up. Restore erased external hard drive with Disk Utility if you have a backup file or recover files from erased external hard drive with data recovery software.

Method 1. Restore Erased External Hard Drive with Disk Utility

You can accidentally erased external hard drive with Disk Utility, you can also restore the erased external hard drive with Disk Utility if you have a backup of this disk. See, how important a back file is. It’s always wise to back up everything before you do anything unfamiliar on Mac.

1. Click Applications on your Mac to open it and find Utilities > Disk Utility. Click to launch it.

2. Find the erased hard drive or external hard drive in the left sidebar. If you haven’t connected it with your Mac, connect it first and then you can see it. Select the drive and click "Restore" on the right top menu.

3. In the next window, you should choose the external hard drive where the backup file is in the "Restore from" drop-down list. After then, click "Restore".

Please note that restoring Disk Utility erased external hard drive with the backup file will 100% replace everything existing on the erased hard disk. If everything you have is in the backup file, then it’s no problem at all. If the backup file does not contain everything existing on the erased disk, you should use data recovery software to recover files from the erased external hard drive first, making sure you got what you want, and later find an empty disk to restore the backup file.

Method 2. Recover Erased External Hard Drive with Software

I have mentioned above that accidentally erased external hard drive with the disk utility does not mean files are permanently deleted. It’s possible to recover the erased data by Disk Utility. However, if you haven’t had a backup file for the erased external disk, then you must make use of data recovery software.

iBeesoft Data Recovery for Mac is a professional yet simple drive recovery software tool developed for individuals to recover lost and deleted files from Mac internal disks and connected external hard drives. With this help, you can easily recover erased external hard drive on Mac. Here are some of its features for data recovery for macOS.

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  • Scan Disk Utility erased external hard drive quickly to find lost and deleted files.
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  • List all the recoverable files and enable users to preview files before recovery.
  • 3 simple steps to scan erase drive, looking for erased data.
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Follow the steps to learn how to recover erased external hard drive on Mac

Step 1. Launch the Mac data recovery software. From the first window, please specify the file types you want to recover from the erased external hard drive by Disk Utility. It will short the scanning process by deselecting unwanted file types. Click "Start".

Step 2. In the next step, you need to select the erased drive as the target place to scan. If you have accidentally erased external hard drive with Disk Utility, please connect the external hard drive with your Mac before moving to the second step. Select the erased external hard drive and click "Scan".

Step 3. Next, wait for the scanning process to finish and you will see all the find files list in the result window. From there, you can filter file types, then find the files in the corresponding list to preview. When find the files erased by Disk Utility, select them and click "Recover" to save them.

Step 4 (optional). By default, the former 3 simple steps are for Quick Scan. If you haven’t found all the needed files in step 3, then click "Deep Scan" in the result window. It will start the scanning process again, finding more files for you.

Part 4. Fix Can’t Erase External Hard Drive with Disk Utility

"How do I force my Mac to erase a hard drive?" "why can’t I erase my Mac?" sometimes, when you try to erase a external hard drive with Disk Utility, the "Erase" button just gray out. In this case, try the 3 methods below.

Method 1. Show All Devices and Erase the Parent Drive

Sometimes if you can’t erase a external hard drive, mostly because it is only an partition of a drive, not the whole external hard drive. In this case, instead of erasing the partition, you need to erase the whole disk.

1. Open Disk Utility, select View in the menu > Show All Devices.

2. After then, select the parent drive and click Erase.

Method 2. Use First Aid to Repair Disk Before Erasing

If there is an error with your external hard drive, you can’t erase it as well. In this case, you need to fix it before the erasing.

1. Open Disk Utility and navigate to the external hard drive you want to erase and select it.

2. Click First Aid on the top and confirm the action.

3. When the repair is finished, you can erase the external hard drive in Disk Utility.

Using this method you can also fix SD card not showing on Mac.

Method 3. Boot in Recovery Mode to Erase Startup Disk

Some people asked how to erase macOS. Actually, it’s in the startup. Most of time, people will not erase the macOS, because the whole mac works because of the macOS. If you really have to erase it, you should backup it with Time Machine first, after then boot your Mac in recovery mode to erase it.

1. Restart your Mac and hold CMD and R keys at the same time.

2. When the macOS Utilities window pop up, select Disk Utility.

3. After then, erase the startup window in Disk Utility.